COVID-19 mainly spreads through the respiratory particles of an infected person while breathing, talking, coughing or sneezing.
Infected people, with or without symptoms, can transmit COVID-19. Other people can catch the virus when the particles of the infected person get into their mouth, nose or eyes. COVID-19 can also be transmitted through contaminated objects or surfaces.
As Niagara enters a new phase of the pandemic, the responsibility for staying safe is shifting to each of us and our personal actions. The COVID-19 virus remains in high circulation in Niagara and will continue to pose a risk in our community.
Public Health advises residents and businesses to make individual choices to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19. By taking actions to prevent the spread of infection, you're helping to protect our entire community and protecting those who are more vulnerable from COVID-19 infection.
Going forward, let's be kind and understanding when interacting with those who may have differing levels of concern about their ongoing risk from the pandemic. By understanding and respecting those differences, we stand a much better chance of successfully navigating this next phase of the pandemic and coming together as a community.
You can lower your risk of getting COVID by using a "layered approach", especially if you can't avoid closed spaces, crowded places and close contact. Make informed choices and use the following layers of protection.
Getting ourselves and our loved ones vaccinated against COVID-19 has never been more important. While we can't always wear a mask or keep distance from others, we can always have the protection the vaccine offers. The more people in our community that get vaccinated with each recommended dose, the more likely we'll avoid a repeat of the difficult measures of the past, and the more we'll keep ourselves and those around us safe.
To protect individuals who are immunocompromised, it's strongly recommended that everyone who comes into close contact with these individuals stay up to date with their recommended doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
If you've felt confused about vaccination for you or your child, you aren't alone. Some people have found it hard to get clear answers they trust. If you're unsure and would like more information, contact the COVID-19 Info-Line or talk to a nurse in person at one of our vaccination clinics. We will listen to your concerns and answer your questions. No pressure to get vaccinated; no judgement about your decision.
Learn about the COVID-19 vaccine and where you can get vaccinated in Niagara.
Stay home if you're sick even if your symptoms are mild, you're fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or previously tested positive within the last 90 days (and since cleared).
Ensure your ventilation system is in good working order. If you don't have a ventilation system, open windows to increase fresh air flow (if weather permits and can be tolerated).
Learn about how ventilation helps protect against the spread of COVID-19.
If you use a forced air system to heat or cool your home:
Avoid using portable fans, ceiling fans and single unit air conditioners. If you must use them, aim the air stream to avoid blowing directly at or between people in the room. Consider using fans that vent to the outside, such as a box fan in a window, a bathroom exhaust fan and a kitchen exhaust fan. Make sure you open a window when using these fans if possible.
Try to maintain an optimal humidity level, between 30 and 50 per cent in your home. A humidifier or dehumidifier can help you achieve this.
For other ventilation options, speak with a HVAC professional or see Health Canada's guidance document 'At home: Using ventilation and filtration to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19'.
Masks help protect you and those around you from COVID-19. Learn about the qualities of a good mask.
Ontario continues to require masking in some settings and situations. Find out where or when you may be required to wear a mask.
Niagara Region Public Health strongly recommends everyone who can, continue to wear a mask while COVID-19 infections remain high.
Some people may choose to still use physical distancing as an effective layer of protection against COVID-19.
Physical distancing means avoiding close contact with others by staying at least two metres apart from people you don’t live with. Further than two metres is better especially when:
To practise physical distancing:
It's important to remember that knowing someone doesn't reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19.
Clean your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or hand sanitize and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or into your sleeve. Throw used tissues into a covered, compostable bag lined organics bin or a plastic lined garbage can. Clean your hands after.
Avoid sharing personal items, especially those that come into contact with saliva, such as toothbrushes and eating utensils.
Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces once a day using a disinfectant and following manufacturer’s instructions.
We know the layers of protection have worked to reduce the harms caused by COVID-19. Many of these measures. like staying home when sick, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette were practised before COVID-19 to prevent the spread of other infectious diseases. They should continue to be part of our everyday practices, today and always.
Public Health advice may change over time in response to the current COVID-19 situation. Future COVID-19 activity will depend on factors such as:
We should expect more waves and outbreaks, but we're cautiously optimistic that there will be less hospitalizations as more residents are vaccinated.
With the risk of COVID-19 still present, it can feel awkward and uncomfortable when it's up to each individual to use their own judgement about what is safe and you find yourself wanting to do more or less than those around you because of your situation. While some may feel the risks of COVID-19 are acceptable to them, many in our community may still be at greater risk, or have loved ones who are vulnerable, and wish to continue practising greater precaution. Everyone will be learning and figuring this out as they go. Here are some tips for navigating this:
While COVID-19 can make anyone sick, some individuals are more at risk of exposure to the virus. This can be based on someone's occupation, such as health care workers, or where they live, such as residents of congregate living settings.
Some individuals are more at risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection, such as hospitalization or death. These include:
Factors for increased risk of exposure and severe outcomes may overlap, further increasing one's risk. These individuals should especially consider using multiple layers of prevention for the best protection against COVID-19. Health Canada recommends that for people at higher risk, it’s even more important to:
If a medical mask or respirator isn't available to you, make sure you properly wear a well constructed and well-fitting non-medical mask.
Check your COVID-19 visit risk.
There is still a risk due to COVID-19 posed by travelling to other parts of Canada or internationally, especially to areas where there is higher spread. Consider your risk when thinking about planning a trip.
If you do decide to travel, protect yourself by getting all recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. As well, when travelling, be mindful that some activities are higher risk, such as being in crowds or busy indoor spaces. Outdoor activities and protections like wearing masks are encouraged.
If you're planning a vacation, consider travelling within the province. The Ontario government is encouraging residents to support our local tourism industry and businesses as they recover from the impacts of the pandemic. You can use Ontario's Staycation Tax Credit for 20 per cent of your eligible 2022 accommodation expenses.
Before you leave Canada
The Public Health Agency of Canada has provided travel advice for Canadians considering travelling abroad during the pandemic.
Countries may have proof of vaccination requirements that you must meet to be allowed entry. Learn about the Canadian COVID-19 proof of vaccination as a way for you to show proof of your COVID-19 vaccination history when travelling internationally. This form of proof does not guarantee you entry to another country. Before you travel, you must check the rules of your destination country and the countries you transit through.
Returning to Canada
Vaccinated travellers must use ArriveCAN to enter their proof of vaccination. Learn about uploading proof of vaccination in ArriveCAN. If you're vaccinated with a Health Canada approved vaccine, you might qualify for an exemption from federal quarantine.
See information for children and dependants.
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms upon return, self-isolate.
Mandatory protective measures against COVID-19 are lifting across Canada, but COVID-19 is still circulating at a very high level. You will need to check and see if there are any travel restrictions and exemptions when moving between some other provinces and territories.
When you enter another province or territory, there may also be additional restrictions and protective measures that you must follow. Check with local authorities at your final destination before leaving Ontario. Even where protective measures are not mandated, they are almost always strongly recommended.
You need to show proof that you're vaccinated to board flights and trains in Canada. You can use the Canadian proof of vaccination to show proof of your COVID-19 vaccination history when travelling within Canada.
It's not certain how long COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Preliminary information on COVID-19 suggests that the virus may live on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days depending on:
High touch surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Clean your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or hand sanitize. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
Products shipped within or from outside of Canada could also be contaminated. However, because packages usually take days or weeks to be delivered, and are shipped at room temperature, the risk of spread is low. There is no known risk of coronaviruses entering Canada on parcels or packages.
Learn about animals and COVID-19.
For more information on what you need to know when visiting a doctor's office, visit the College of Physicians and Surgeons Ontario COVID-19 frequently asked questions for patients.
Niagara Region Public Health doesn't recommend that employers require testing or doctor's notes for return to work. Some individuals will continue to test positive for COVID-19 for many months, long after they're no longer contagious.
For more information, see:
Long COVID (sometimes also referred to as Post Acute COVID-19 Syndrome) occurs in at least 10 per cent of people, and in as high as 50 to 60 per cent of unvaccinated people by some estimates. In long COVID, some people continue to suffer symptoms even after they have recovered from a COVID-19 infection. For some people these symptoms are very mild, but for others they can impact someone's daily routine and may even be disabling.
Some symptoms are:
These symptoms are examples. They are not the same in every person and individuals may experience symptoms not included in this list. In addition to these symptoms, people's risk of developing diseases longer-term such as heart disease or diabetes are significantly increased after past COVID-19 infection.
If you are experiencing lingering symptoms or have noticed any changes in your overall health since contracting COVID-19, it is important to reach out to your health care provider or Health Connect Ontario. The Province of Ontario is consistently updating primary care physician with emerging evidence in this area so they can properly treat and refer patients with long COVID symptoms.
The best thing one can do to prevent long COVID is to get vaccinated. Research shows that vaccination prevents long COVID both by reducing the chance of being infected with COVID-19 and by reducing the risk of long COVID even if one is infected. Newer antiviral treatments may also work to treat long COVID symptoms in some.
Long COVID resources: